Apples in the Inland Empire
Otis Orchards, which was owned by Nick Karras, handled the Pineland brand for more than 40 years.
The Spokane Valley (also known as the Inland Empire) in Washington State has a long history of commercial apple cultivation and marketing. The first commercial orchard was planted in the first decade of the 1900s east of the City of Spokane near the Idaho border. Also during the early 1900s, land for fruit packing and storage warehouses was acquired from the Northern Pacific Railroad on long-term leases. Four large buildings were erected adjacent to the railroad's main line, and other such structures, built nearby on the leased land, were connected to the main line by railroad-built spurs. Among the companies who controlled these warehouses were Spokane Valley Fruit Growers' Association (which built its warehouse in 1910), Earl Fruit Company, Associated Fruit Company, White Brothers & Crum, H.J. Shinn Company, and Kroll Company. About 1910, Spokane Valley Fruit Growers' Association contracted with Northern Pacific Railroad for the shipping of the first carload of apples from the Spokane Valley to Rockford, Illinois.
The Spokane International Railroad serviced the East Farms fruit-growing region, also in the Inland Empire. Warehouses in this area included those of H. Segerstrom, Frank Shinn, and Otis Orchards Cooperative Association. Otis not only planted the area's first commercial orchard but also, in 1932, provided the first export fruit that was shipped to Bremen, Germany via the Panama Canal through H.J. Shinn warehouse. However, the Spokane Valley grower faced the same obstacles as growers from other regions in the Pacific Northwestincreasing costs in all phases of production eventually left little or no profit for the grower. The Great Depression of the early 1930s added to the problem, but it was several severe freezes in the early fall and late spring of the 1930s that spelled the beginning of the end for Spokane Valley growers. Those with the capital and determination to stay in the business despite poor returns were hit again by severe freezes in the early 1950s. Apple production declined steadily over the next decade.
By 1969, Otis Orchards, the final Spokane Valley fruit-packing operation, had closed.
Most of the original warehouses were destroyed by fire over the years, with the first to go up in flames in 1928. Only three of these buildings have survived to the present day. The former Earl Fruit Company warehouse is now used for boat storage, the Otis Orchards building is a flea market, and the Associated Fruit Company warehouse (where the last fruit was packed in 1969) is a rental storage facility.